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Easthampton High School students get double lesson in physics and safe driving

Easthampton High School principal Vito Perrone (R) and police chief Bruce McMahon (L) clock the speed of a police cruiser during a joint classroom learning experience with Abe Phelps' Science class and local law enforcement thursday at Nonotuck park in Easthampton.
JOSH KUCKENS

Easthampton High School principal Vito Perrone (R) and police chief Bruce McMahon (L) clock the speed of a police cruiser during a joint classroom learning experience with Abe Phelps' Science class and local law enforcement thursday at Nonotuck park in Easthampton. JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

— It was a physics lesson with a safety twist.

Ten students in Abraham Phelps’ physics class at Easthampton High School braved the 36-degree temperatures at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to gather in Nonotuck Park for a live demonstration of the principles of velocity and acceleration.

They watched as the school’s resource officer, Alan Schadel, drove a police cruiser at increasing speeds across a parking lot that started out dry and then was slicked down with the help of the town Fire Department. Phelps recorded each run on video and students marked distances on the pavement so they could calculate the speed of the various stops using a computer program later in class. “We’re measuring the anti-lock brakes to figure out if he stops faster on dry or wet,” explained junior Shequahn Reid. His classmate Gabrielle Carey, a senior, had the equation down pat: “V, for velocity, equals distance over time,” she said.

Although Schadel, who is in his eighth year as school resource officer, didn’t get above 40 mph, some of his runs looked and sounded far faster. “The point is not only to talk about math,” he told the students, ”but also to help you understand that a couple of miles per hour could be the difference between hitting someone and not.”

“It’s a good lesson,” added Police Chief Bruce McMahon, who was helping out with the class. “It’s practical knowledge the students can really use.”

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